Australia’s Robbie McEwen took his second Tour stage in Saint Quentin with a powerful surge on the final section of the rising finish.
McEwen accelerated out of the final corner and opened a five metre gap on his rivals. Tom Boonen tried to respond but did not have the speed and was overtaken by Spain’s Isaac Galvez (Caisse d’Epargne), Oscar Freire (Rabobank). Thor Hushovd (Credit Agricole) finished fourth in the sprint but was relegated to 148th place, at the back of the bunch, for dangerous riding.
The overall standings remained unchanged with Boonen in yellow, one second ahead of Michael Rogers (T-Mobile), with George Hincapie (Discovery Channel) third at five seconds.
David Millar (Saunier Duval) again finished in the bunch and is now 15th overall at 21 seconds. He has a chance of taking the yellow jersey in Saturday’s 52km time trial but will have to beat George Hincapie, Paolo Savoldelli, Floyd Landis and Dave Zabriskie.
It was McEwen’s tenth Tour stage win of his career and his ninth win of 2006. It also give him the green points jersey.
“It’s unreal. We had a plan but they don’t always work but this one went to the letter,” McEwen said.
“We rode on front from 100km out. I knew we’d miss Rodriguez but we used Gert Steegmans instead. He went at 400 metres to go and I went at 200 metres, at the little bend. I died a thousand deaths before the line but I made it. This win is for Freddy. He crashed pretty bad yesterday and unfortunately is out of the Tour.”
“In Belgium they say there’s no two without three. Tomorrow is another stage and every time I get on the bike I ride to win so hopefully I can win again.”
Yet again the finish was hectic with Erik Zabel (Milram) puncturing in the final three kilometres and Credit Agricole leadout man Julian Dean touching wheels and crashing 400 metres from the line.
A break provided the early action with Bradley Wiggins (Cofidis) going clear with Egoi Martinez (Discovery Channel), Christophe Mengin (Francaise des Jeux), Laurent Lefevre (Bouygues) and Cedric Coutouly (Agritubel).
They went away after 25km and opened a five minute gap, with Quick Step leading the chase. Wiggins and Mengin were caught 12km from the finish, with Martinez and Lefevre caught just two kilometres from the line.
1 Robbie McEwen (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto 207km in 4.59.50
2 Isaac Galvez (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne-Illes Balears
3 Oscar Freire (Spa) Rabobank
4 Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick-Step-Innergetic
5 David Kopp (Ger) Gerolsteiner
6 Daniele Bennati (Ita) Lampre-Fondital
7 Francisco Ventoso (Spa) Saunier Duval
8 Michael Albasini (Ita) Liquigas
9 Bernhard Eisel (Aut) Francaise Des Jeux all same time.
10 Jimmy Casper (Fra) Cofidis
Overall standings after stage 4
1 Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick-Step-Innergetic 19.52.13
2 Michael Rogers (Aus) T-Mobile 0.01
3 George Hincapie (USA) Discovery Channel 0.05
4 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Crédit Agricole 0.07
5 Egoi Martinez (Spa) Discovery Channel 0.10
6 Robbie McEwen (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto 0.12
7 Paolo Savoldelli (Ita) Discovery Channel 0.15
8 Daniele Bennati (Ita) Lampre-Fondital
9 Floyd Landis (USA) Phonak 0.16
10 Vladimir Karpets (Rus) Caisse d’Epargne 0.17
You can find full stage and overall results, plus text coverage of stage four on our Tour de France live coverage page